The Forza Horizon series serves as the equal and opposite of the Forza Motorsport series, taking gamers away from the closed off tracks of traditional racing and setting them loose in off-road courses that add a completely new set of challenges. Forza Horizon 3 is the latest entry in the hit sport racing series that lets players enjoy some of the craziest stunts and race locations that the Australian Outback has to offer. As the third entry of the franchise and also debuting after last year’s Forza Motorsport 6, the title maintains the updated mechanics, weather simulations and stunning realism – all with minor tweaks that make them much more effective.
One of the bigger changes that Horizon 3 brings to the franchise is an open world environment that can produce new experiences in an instant. Complete with lush jungles, beautiful beaches and sprawling desert landscapes, the Australian outback is the perfect embodiment of everything this series has to offer. The campaign of Horizon 3 follows a character of your choosing as they take part in tournaments across the scenic Outback. The title allows players to manage the tournaments and personalize their own experience within the game. Throughout each tournament, players will open up new locations and races. Once all of the required races for a tournament are finished, players can either move on to a new tournament in another part of the map, or expand the current tournament and open up new events in the same area. Although there is a slight limit to the amount of routes within the campaign, there will always be more things to do and see in any particular area.
The cars of Forza Horizon 3 showcase what happens when the world’s greatest car manufacturers go off-road. Luxury brands like Lamborghini, Tesla and Ferrari go toe-to-toe with rugged companies like Ford and the almighty Jeep. The new entry contains over 350 cars from 75 different manufacturers and all of them have their own learning curve that sets them apart from each other.
Speaking of learning curves, Horizon 3’s attempts to be just as realistic as the main Motorsports series makes it one of the toughest Forza games to master. Faced with more grueling weather conditions and tougher terrain, the entire lineup of cars feels is much more difficult to handle than anything in Motorsport 6. However, most of the cars are equipped with enhanced turning power, and those that don’t simply require skill in order to maintain control.
Horizon 3 focuses less on perfecting turns or clean racing and more on aggressive gameplay and successful action stunts. As players participate in race, different areas will provide various opportunities to take out opposing players, get huge air jumps, and destroy the physical environment. Doing any of these things during a race or casual cruise around the outback will give players more points which then translate to XP. Chaining these stunts together will not only earn more points, but also create a multiplier that causes your next stunts to earn even more points than they normally would. Of course, you only retain these bonuses until you crash horrifically into a tree that you thought you could easily plow through, which really ruins your groove.
Destruction in Horizon 3 ranges from ultra realistic to completely implausible. The biggest highlight of the game is how the supercharged vehicles collide with each other at immense speeds to create beautifully detailed wrecks. Car models show the tiniest scratches and dents, and you can even notice realistic patterns on damaged and cracked windows. Players are able to completely destroy Horizon 3’s entire garage of cars in mind blowing ways. You can even adjusted the settings to allow for no damage, purely cosmetic damage, or go as far as to simulate ways to destroy the engine entirely.
These ultra-destructible cars, however, exist inside only a partially destructible environment. Luckily, there is a rule of thumb to figuring out what is and is not destructible. In this series, Houses, spectators and the walls of a race are indestructible, which is mostly fine as they are easily avoided, especially thanks to the signature rewind feature. Unfortunately, the game’s biggest challenge comes from its trees. About three quarters of the trees can be run down without affecting even the smallest and slowest of the game’s cars. However, the other quarter of the trees stands tall, proud, immovable and worst of all – look identical to all the rest. Players may fool themselves into thinking there is some sort of pattern to identifying these wooden party killers, but there’s not certain way of doing that.
The one major area in which Playground Games has made a fruitful effort to increase the series graphic fidelity is with the addition of 4K and high dynamic range support. The native 4K output is indeed a nice upgrade with a higher clarity, but a clearer image is kind of redundant in a racing game. With the exception for your car, the rest of the environment passes so quickly that the only thing you’ll be able to appreciate in Ultra High Definition, is whatever’s on the horizon. The HDR support, however, is where this boost in graphics pays off. Wider color and light ranges result in a life like saturation, meaning that each car’s paint job simply glows on screen. HDR turns the foliage into a lush and vibrant green, sunsets into an amazing gradient of reds, yellows, pinks and orange, and most notably, the ocean view into every shade of blue that exists. Forza Horizon 3 looks amazing in 4K and HDR and is well worth the upgrade.
What is arguably Horizon’s only downside is, by and large, the soundtrack. In the campaign, players unlock various radio stations to play on the ongoing tournaments. This essentially means that you are given a decent amount of choice in music to listen to while driving. However, the music isn’t always the best. There are great songs peppered into the wealth of royalty free music, but it’s not nearly enough. Groove Music is included in the game, as the franchise tries its best to include yet another music streaming service that costs money to use. Players who happen to use the service will definitely be able to enjoy much better music than the on-disc soundtrack, but otherwise players should just switch off the radio manually and simply play music from their own library.
Forza Horizon 3 is one of the best off-road racing simulators available today. Combining the beauty of the Australian Outback with the an amazing collection of vehicles and the best visuals of any Forza game do date, Horizon 3 sets a new standard in the racing genre. Although stumbling a bit in the music department, an area previous entries actually got right, the game surpasses all expectation in both gameplay and graphics. The Forza series has officially conquered the Australian Outback and we’re excited to see what’s waiting for us on on the horizon.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.